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Bloomberg: Venezuela Studies Purchase of Shell’s Argentine Units

Bloomberg: Venezuela Studies Purchase of Shell’s Argentine Units

“Shell… earlier today sold its gasoline stations in Peru to Chile’s state oil company for $41 million”

Posted 18 August 04

Petroleos de Venezuela SA, South America’s largest oil producer, is studying the purchase of Royal Dutch/Shell Group’s chain of Argentine gasoline stations in a venture with that country’s state oil company, Venezuelan Energy and Mines Minister Rafael Ramirez said.

“A joint venture, with the new oil company of Argentina, is one of the possibilities,” Ramirez said, responding to a question about a possible purchase after a press conference in Caracas, Petroleos de Venezuela’s headquarters. Carlos Garcia, a spokesman for Shell in Argentina, declined to comment.

Venezuela and Argentina last month agreed to form new energy ventures in South America. Shell, the third-largest publicly traded oil company, earlier today sold its gasoline stations in Peru to Chile’s state oil company for $41 million. Shell began selling its Venezuelan stations in February.

“Shell officials told me that the company is withdrawing not only from Peru but also from other countries in Latin America,” Jaime Quijandria, Peruvian energy and mines minister, said in a press conference in Lima. “They are relocating investments in other markets where Shell has more interests.”

Shell CAPSA, the company’s Argentine unit, has more than 900 service stations in Argentina and a refinery in Buenos Aires province, according to Shell’s Web site. The unit had 2,998 employees at the end of 2002 and a fleet of 350 trucks and 5 tankers.

Political Reasons?

“About 25 percent of Argentina’s gasoline market is in the hands of independents,” said Ramirez. He didn’t indicate when a decision would be reached.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who survived a recall vote on Sunday, has had a strained relationship with the U.S., repeatedly accusing Washington of meddling in his country’s politics.

“It makes sense for Petroleos de Venezuela to do this, if they’re looking for a potential outlet for product,” said Tom Knight, director of trading for Truman Arnold Cos. in Texarkana, Texas. “For political reasons, they may want to direct more spending toward South America, rather than North America.”

In May, Argentina’s President Nestor Kirchner pledged to create a state-owned oil company to help plan energy exploration, production and distribution in the country.

Argentine Oil Company

The federal government will own 53 percent of the new company, with 12 percent held by provinces and the rest sold on the stock market. Argentina’s senate has approved the creation of the company, while the lower house is expected to approve it before the end of the year.

Empresa Nacional del Petroleo, or Enap, Chile’s state oil company, took over the 165 gas stations owned by Cia. de Petroleo Shell del Peru SA, which sells fuel to mining, fishing and manufacturing companies, said Marcelo Esquivel, an Enap spokesman in Santiago.

Santiago-based Enap will develop the business together with Lima-based Romero Trading Combustibles SA, Esquivel said in an interview.

Shell will keep its lubricant business, which has a 25 percent market share in Peru, Jorge Ardanaz, general manager of Lima-based Shell Peru Lubricantes del Peru SA, said in an interview.

The gas stations last year had annual sales of about $300 million, Ardanaz said. The new company will control 20 percent of Peru’s fuel market, he said.

Peru’s economy grew for a 36th month in June, setting a record for the country’s longest expansion, as increasing consumer demand helped drive growth beyond the mining and gas industries.

The $61 billion economy grew 3 percent in June, compared with 4.2 percent in May, the National Statistics Institute said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. The month marked the longest sustained expansion since the institute started to calculate monthly gross domestic product in January 1984.

To contact the reporter on this story:

Peter Wilson in Caracas at  [email protected].

To contact the editor responsible for this story:

Robert Dieterich at  [email protected].

http://quote.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000086&sid=aWkQScdV7DlY&refer=latin_america

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